Fox Valley Conference
Coach: Don Sutherland (30th season)
Last year’s record: 22-11, 12-5 FVC Valley (co-champion)
Key returning players: Tyler Pennington, sr., C; Matt McCumber, sr., P-OF; Collin Walsh, sr., OF; Ben Levicki, sr., OF; Tom Neilson, sr., DH; Mike Eleftheriou, sr., P
Key newcomers: Quinn Priester, so., P; Ryan Ignoffo, jr., P-OF; Matt Breig, jr., C; Luc Bressett, jr., IF
Noteworthy: The Trojans tied Crystal Lake South for the FVC Valley Division title last season. … Pennington and McCumber were All-Area first-team selections and are back to lead this year’s group. C-G will look to McCumber (a Northern Illinois signee) and sophomore Quinn Priester atop their rotation. … Pennington is one of the area’s top catchers and most dangerous hitters.
Crystal Lake Central
Coach: Tom Mueller (second season)
Last year’s record: 17-14 overall, 10-8 FVC Fox (second place)
Key returning players: Adam Wittenberg, sr., C-3B; Anthony Novy, sr., P-OF; Anthony Ruffalo, sr., P-1B; Anthony Mann, sr., C-1B; Richie Hintz, jr., SS-2B; Camden Nisenson, jr., P-OF
Key newcomers: James Cormier, jr., P-OF-1B; Jake Staples, jr., P-OF; Connor Burns, jr., 2B-SS; Jordan Daugherty, so., P-3B
Noteworthy: Mueller likes the Tigers’ depth of the pitching staff, where he has five right-handers and five lefties. … Central also is deep at catcher and in the outfield. … Nisenson missed time last season with an elbow injury, so having him near the top of the lineup for a full season will be most beneficial. Having Hintz returning as the starting shortstop also will be key.
Crystal Lake South
Coach: Brian Bogda (10th season)
Last year’s record: 26-7, 12-5 FVC Valley (co-champion)
Key returning players: Michael Swiatly, sr., C-OF; Griffin Bright, sr., OF; Kory Olsen, sr., IF; Nick Wolski, sr., 1B-OF-P; Ryan Parquette, sr., C; Brent Chubb, sr., OF; Andrew Engelking, sr., P; Luke Dunham, sr., P; Kyle Lang, jr., P; Eric Helm, sr., IF; Aaron Watkins, sr., P
Key newcomers: Brian Fuentes, sr., IF; Scott Skwarek, jr., IF; Kyle Hetherington, so., OF-P; Noah Tyrrell, jr., 1B-P; Blake Kuffel, jr., 1B-P
Noteworthy: The Gators tied Cary-Grove for the FVC Valley Division championship last season and return several of their position players. They also add Fuentes, who moved last summer from Venezuela. He should provide power in the top of the lineup and strong defense, possibly at shortstop. … Bright, Swiatly, Wolski, Olsen and Parquette were regulars last season who return. … Engelking and Dunham are the Gators’ top two pitchers coming back this season. … Bogda said he thinks he might use several different lineups because of his team’s versatility.
Coach: Matt Mueller (first season)
Last year’s record: 16-16 overall, 8-9 FVC (tie for fifth place)
Key returning players: Erik Hedmark, jr., OF-P; Ryan Denz, sr., IF; Jon Mays, sr., C-OF; Sean Jay, sr., IF; Brett Buske, sr., P-OF; Matt Marczyk, sr., C; Conor Ryan, sr., P-IF; Scott Wojcik, sr., OF; Greg Williams, sr., OF; Remington Stewart, sr., P
Key newcomers: Jack Waldron, jr., P-IF; Jackson Prigge, jr., IF; Zach Hahn, jr.,C-IF; Henry Smith, jr., P-OF; Tim Boston, jr., OF
Noteworthy: Mueller takes over a team with 13 seniors as the nucleus. … The Chargers’ best player might be Hedmark, a strong left-handed hitter and their top pitcher. Hedmark, a junior lefty, committed to Northern Illinois in the fall. Mueller said Hedmark and Ryan will top a rotation that he considers deep.
Coach: John Sarna (sixth season)
Last year’s record: 18-15 overall, 9-9 FVC Fox (third place)
Key returning players: Carter Lawler, sr., P-UTIL; Noah Schrader, sr., OF; Christian Puente, sr., P
Key newcomers: Matt Jachec, so., P-IF; Trevor Laffin, so., OF
Noteworthy: The Whip-Purs must replace their top two pitchers in Michael Kruse and Jake Manning. Kruse also was one of their best hitters at the top of the lineup. … Lawler and Schrader are the top returning players from Hampshire’s everyday lineup. … The Whips will host McHenry at Elgin’s Trout Park on May 19 in their annual Strike Out Cancer Game to benefit the Jason Motte Foundation. The teams will use 20 bats furnished by Hoosier Bat Company, painted in different colors to represent different kinds of cancer. Each team will have 10 of the bats to use.
Coach: Andy Jakubowski (12th season)
Last year’s record: 25-15 overall, 9-8 FVC Valley (tied for third place)
Key returning players: Jeff Heinrich, sr., 3B; Noah Konie, sr., 1B-P; Joe Rizzo, sr., C; Mark Smylie, sr., P; Cameron Reed, sr., P; Brad Maurer, sr., OF; Eric Maurer, sr., 2B-UTIL; Logan DeWulf, sr., P; Cole Raines, sr., P; Brad Model, sr., OF; Nick Laxner, jr., P; Kyle Morgan, sr., P; Tyler Koss, jr., C-OF; Joe Boland, sr., 2B-SS
Key newcomers: Ethan Sund, sr., P; Jordan Goldstein, jr., SS-UTIL; Keegan Garcelon, jr., P; Grant Yakimisky, jr., P-3B; Chris Costantino, jr., OF-P
Noteworthy: Huntley was one win from reaching the Class 4A state semifinals last season after tying for third place with Jacobs in the FVC Valley Division. … When Jakubowski moved Heinrich and Konie to the Nos. 1-2 spot in the order in the second half of the season, the Red Raiders played their best ball. Heinrich hit .461 and stole 23 bases, while Rizzo (at No. 3) hit .402 and knocked in a team-high 36 runs. … Smylie and Laxner provide a strong 1-2 for the rotation, which is deep. … “We have always prided ourselves on pitching and defense as a program,” Jakubowski said. “This team is full of character guys who are unselfish, and the expectation is to go further than the 2016 team.”
Coach: Jamie Murray (sixth season)
Last year’s record: 21-13 overall, 9-8 FVC Valley (tied for third place)
Key returning players: Mike Addante, sr., OF; Adam Kale, sr., OF; Ryan McGorian, sr., 1B-DH; Brad Demkovich, sr., P; Ian Oreskovich, sr., 3B; Dylan Cummings, sr., P; Justin Lavrisa, jr., P
Key newcomers: Daniel Murray, jr., 1B-P; Braeden Wegner, jr., OF-P; Matt Camp, jr., P-UTIL; Cory Dennison, jr, P; Liam Oreskovich, jr., C; Austin Aspien, jr., P; Nolan Johnson, jr., P-UTIL
Noteworthy: The Golden Eagles are 100-51 over the past four seasons and have won a Class 4A regional title in all of those years. … Addante, a Nebraska signee, is terrific at the top of the lineup with his speed and also produces some power. … The Eagles lost three of their top four pitchers to graduation. Lefty Brad Demkovich (542/3 innings, 4-1, 2.17 ERA) returns to top the rotation. … “There are a lot of talented players that no one really knows about,” coach Jamie Murray said. “Personally, I love this team, their athleticism and passion to compete. We have some seniors who are looking forward to taking advantage of their opportunity.”
Coach: Brian Rockweiler (11th season)
Last year’s record: 20-14 overall, 8-9 FVC Valley (tied for fifth place)
Key returning players: Bobby Miller, sr., P-1B; Mike Lasiewicz, sr., P-OF; Owen Patzin, jr., SS; Colton Klein, sr., OF; Dylan Honkala, jr., 3B-P; Nick Finley, sr., 2B; Ian Grubich, jr., P
Key newcomers: Jarod Wojcik, jr., OF; Chase Grasso, jr., C; Zac McMichael, sr., C; Joe Kaminski, so., P
Noteworthy: The FVC has plenty of strong pitching, and Miller and Lasiewicz might be the best of any team’s top two. Miller signed with Louisville, Lasiewicz signed with NIU. … Miller is a two-time All-Area first-team selection. … Patzin is back for a third year as the starting shortstop. … Klein and Honkala both were All-FVC Valley selections last season, along with Miller and Lasiewicz. … “The pitching will definitely be our strength,” Rockweiler said. “I have been impressed with our ability to hit the ball early on this season. I feel as though we have the talent, work ethic and mindset to contend for a conference title.”
Coach: Glen Pecoraro (17th season)
Last year’s record: 31-7 overall, 16-2 FVC Fox (champion)
Key returning players: Bryce Thelander, sr., 2B; Ryan Schmit, sr., P-1B; Scott Nygren, sr., P; Robbie Masini, sr., 3B-P; Gus Arellano, sr., 3B-P; Scott Stetz, jr., C; Colin Lamb, jr., OF
Key newcomers: Zach Teegen, sr., OF; Joe Hansen, jr., P-1B; Nick Sargeant, jr., C-OF; Roth Mizell, jr., P-IF; Zach Gulbransen, jr., OF; Brogan O’Connor, sr., OF
Noteworthy: The Wolves are 62-13 over their past two seasons and won the FVC Fox championship both years. … They were hit hard by graduation with their top three starting pitchers – Jon Tieman, Ethan Routzahn and Joey Hanley – all gone now. … Thelander returns as an everyday player at second base, while Stetz saw a lot of time behind the plate. … Teegen transferred from Marian Central and gives the Wolves some extra power in the lineup.
Kishwaukee River Conference
Coach: Donnie Nolen (sixth season)
Last year’s record: 14-12 overall, 4-10 BNC East
Key returning players: Josh Whaples, sr., P-IF; Sam Nolen, sr., IF; Ben Overlee, sr., OF-P; Zach Froelich, sr., OF; Brandon Most, sr., C-IF
Key newcomers: Chad Nelson, jr., P-IF; Brett Lehman, jr., P-IF; Dylan Stephens, jr., P-IF; Ryan Stephens, jr., C-OF; Alec Garza, jr., OF-P; Josh Peterson, jr., P-OF
Noteworthy: The Hornets will be more inexperienced than in recent seasons and have no starting pitchers with any varsity innings. That means Harvard has a lot of unknowns with the IHSA’s new pitch count rule. … “Our season will depend on how the pitching and team defense comes together,” Nolen said.
Coach: Sam Lesniak (fifth season)
Last year’s record: 12-21 overall, 4-10 BNC East
Key returning players: Chris Krennrich, sr., P-1B; Dillon Pokuta, sr., 2B; Casey Wilson, sr., C; Mike Crow, sr., P; Ryan Kordik, sr., P-OF; Adam Jayko, jr., 3B-P; Nico LoDolce, jr., SS
Key newcomers: Hunter Rodgers, jr., OF-P; Ryan Linkletter, so., P-OF; Eli Alanis, jr., 1B-P; Noah Alanis, jr., C-OF
Noteworthy: The Skyhawks were not ready to compete last season in the Big Northern Conference East Division, but they might be ready this spring in the new KRC. They have a load of returning players and a pitching staff led by Krennrich, Kordik and Crow, their top hurlers last season. … “Our junior class is deep with talented players that had success last season,” Lesniak said. “Our pitching staff will be deep. The expectations are high for this group. We are looking forward to competing at the highest level this season.”
Coach: Josh Maas (sixth season)
Last year’s record: 5-25 overall, 1-13 BNC East (eighth place)
Key returning players: Dan Larson, sr., 1B-C; Jarrett Burno, sr., 3B-P; John Henning, sr., SS-P; Brayden Quick, sr., OF-P; Jake LaSota, jr., C; Cody Wilcox, jr., 2B-P
Key newcomers: Matt Fischer, jr., OF-P; Cristian Correa, jr., OF-IF-P; Matt Meranda, jr., 1B-OF-P
Noteworthy: Maas said the Indians need to play better defense and hit better in run-producing situations to improve on their record from last season. One factor that should help with defense is having Quick (CF), Henning (SS), Wilcox (2B) and LaSota (C) back to bolster the defense up the middle. … “We had a lot of young guys last year, so, hopefully, they will take a step forward this year,” Maas said. … The Indians are looking for someone to step into the roles as starters at the top of the rotation.
Coach: Mike Giese (12th season)
Last year’s record: 18-12 overall, 10-4 BNC East (third place)
Key returning players: Jake Rosing, jr., P-IF; Jake Kaufman, sr., OF; Mike Wojcik, sr., SS
Key newcomers: Bobby Bannon, sr., OF; Brandon Bannon, jr., C-IF; Jake Rybarski, jr., P-IF
Noteworthy: Rosing has been one of the area’s most dominant pitchers for two seasons and has two more to go. He is committed to Louisville and recorded a 0.61 ERA last season. … Giese moved Wojcik from catcher to shortstop in the middle of last season and liked what that did for the defense, so Wojcik is there again. … The Bannon brothers are transfers from Marian Central and players Giese said he thinks will be key to the Rockets’ lineup. … “Pitching is our strength, and we believe if we can manufacture some runs, we can compete at a high level,” Giese said.
Coach: Matt Prill (first season)
Last year’s record: 5-23, 2-16 FVC Fox (seventh place)
Key returning players: Joey Brown, sr., 1B-OF-P; John Kubacha, sr., 3B-P; Lance Lewis, sr., OF; Jake Rowan, sr., IF; Jacob Sumner, sr., OF; Josh Turner, sr., IF-P; Blake Waterson, sr., C
Key newcomers: Kyle Dehn-Franklin, jr., P-IF; Evan Geske, so, SS-P; Dylan Grisolia, jr., IF; Tyler Peake, jr., OF; Jacob Waryck, so., P-IF; Tyler Waterson, fr., C-IF
Noteworthy: Prill takes over as coach for John Oliveira, who resigned after nine seasons. … Prill said he thinks the Blue Streaks have the ability to play strong defense and pitch well. “We have what it takes to compete at a high level and are working hard to make that happen day in and day out,” he said. … Kubacha was the Streaks’ best player last season and is back.
Coach: John Oslovich (second season)
Last year’s record: 12-22 overall, 4-14 FVC Fox (sixth place)
Key returning players: Cory Busse, sr., 3B-P; Nate Harris, sr., SS; Brandon Amann, sr., OF-2B; Dain Glaves, sr., 1B-P; Jake Busse, jr., P-1B-OF
Key newcomers: Will Taylor, sr., OF; David Mertz, jr., OF; Aaron Montgomery, fr., C
Noteworthy: The Thunder set the school record for wins last season, and many of the top players return. Harris and Cory Busse were North’s top hitters. … The Busse brothers and Glaves picked up significant innings for the Thunder last year. Oslovich is excited to have all his top pitchers back as North starts in the KRC.
East Suburban Catholic Conference
Coach: Tom Kruse (second season)
Last year’s record: 9-23 overall, 3-15 ESCC (10th place)
Key returning players: James Raffauf, sr., P-IF; Jack Schneider, sr., UTIL; Matt Schneider, sr., UTIL; Jordan Rodriguez, sr., P; Colin Rebenstorf, sr., C; Justin Carlton, sr., IF; Brett Seegers, sr., P; Ricky Monbrod, sr., P-OF
Key newcomers: Isaac Kaufmann, jr., P-IF; A.J. Golembiewski, jr., P-OF; Josh Taylor, jr., P-IF; Harrison Beck, jr., P-IF
Noteworthy: Kruse said the Hurricanes will benefit from lineup flexibility, especially with the pitching staff. He said he thinks as many as 10 pitchers could figure into the rotation in some form. … “Our focus this year is to finish strong, not only in the tournament, but on a game-by-game basis,” Kruse said. … The Hurricanes not only suffered graduation losses, but lost transfers with Zach Teegen (Prairie Ridge) and brothers Bobby and Brandon Bannon (Richmond-Burton).
Northeastern Athletic Conference
Coach: Brian Engelbrecht (seventh season)
Last year’s record: 10-22 overall
Key returning players: Brad Judson, so., P-2B-SS; Kyle Judson, so., P-3B-2B; Jack Wagner, so., P-SS-C; Josh Rolnicke, jr., P-1B-OF; David Reiter, jr., OF-P; Tomi Moore, so., OF
Key newcomers: Austin Stauss, sr., 1B-OF; Logan Groves, so., P-SS-3B; Bjorn Held, so., P-OF; Tyler Oman, fr., C-P-UTIL; Tommy McCallion, so., OF
Noteworthy: The Giants have six returning starters, which has boosted their expectations for the season. … Along with the returning players, transfers Groves and McCallion will help, as will Held (who attends Faith Lutheran). … “We think that a better-than-.500 record is possible,” Engelbrecht said.
– Compiled by Joe Stevenson, email@example.com